Trading Greg Monroe is not the answer

There are two scenarios in which I could see Greg Monroe getting traded:

* A team makes an overwhelmingly good offer in which the Pistons get a player better than Monroe in return.

* The Pistons underperform, their frontcourt-heavy roster has fit issues most of the season and, in a panic move to make a playoff push near the trade deadline, the Pistons accept a trade offer from Monroe that nets them a more traditional starter at small forward or shooting guard.

Obviously, one of those scenarios is far preferable to the other. But the far better scenario is not trading Monroe at all because he’s really, really good and still improving. My column for the Detroit Free Press:

Offensively, an argument could be made that his production and skill set already were All-Star-worthy. His defense has notably lagged behind, but he has shown significant improvement this season. His defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) is a very good 99.

Playing with rim protectors like Drummond and Smith certainly helps, but there have been notable improvements in Monroe’s footwork, timing and physicality on defense as well. In the past, he always seemed a step or two slow in rotating or anticipating on defense. This season, he’s beating opponents to spots more frequently. His defensive footwork is not as clumsy. He’s not the leaper that Smith and Drummond are, but he’s learning how to use his strength and positioning to make opposing players set up on the court in spots they’re not as comfortable in. And Monroe has always had quick hands on defense — he’s one of the better bigs in the league at coming up with steals and strips.

Offensively, with Drummond not having a developed post game, Smith chucking shots, and a never-ending supply of shoot-happy, inefficient guards, Monroe remains the Pistons’ best option to get quality shots in half-court sets. Finding a replacement, regardless of position, who can create shots for himself as efficiently Monroe won’t be easy.

I still think, as I wrote before the season started, that there’s a decent chance Monroe gets traded because I do expect this team to have stretches of undisciplined play and poor offense that leads to losses. I just really, really hope it doesn’t happen unless the Pistons get a star in return.

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